WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others convicted of misdeeds ranging from drug offenses to tax evasion, from wildlife violations to bank embezzlement, The Associated Press learned Monday.
The new round of White House pardons are Bush's first since March and come less than two months before he will end his presidency. The crimes committed by those on the list also include offenses involving hazardous waste, food stamps, and the theft of government property.
Bush has been stingy during his time in office about handing out such reprieves.
Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents.
On the latest pardon list were:
_Richard Micheal Culpepper of Mahomet, Ill., who was convicted of making false statements to the federal government.
_Carey C. Hice Sr. of Travelers Rest, S.C., who was convicted of income tax evasion.
_William Hoyle McCright Jr. of Midland, Texas, who was sentenced for making false entries, books, reports or statements to a bank.
_Daniel Figh Pue III of Conroe, Texas, convicted of illegal treatment, storage and disposal of a hazardous waste without a permit.
Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.
Some high-profile individuals, such as Michael Milken, are seeking a pardon on securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption — former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards — are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.
One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.
If Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.
At the same time, Obama advisers say there is little — if any — chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.